Grab your comforter and a flashlight for this tour de force collection from one of our most inventive storytellers.

THE DARK DARK

These short stories are works of dark, dark magic that skitter between worlds both recognizable and wholly new.

Fans of Hunt's work (Mr. Splitfoot, 2016, etc.) will revel in her first story collection, which marries her signature flare for the fantastic with keen observation and sharp prose. In “Beast,” a woman transforms into a deer each night and frets about how her newfound wild side will affect her marriage. The strip mall sadness of rural Pennsylvania pushes the grown siblings in “Cortés the Killer” to make a series of terrible decisions. A woman moves to Florida to escape memories of a miscarriage, but they come flooding back during a hurricane in “The House Began to Pitch.” And, in “Love Machine,” a lonely FBI agent botches a mission in order to consummate his love for a killer robot. Even when things get strange, Hunt pins language to the page with such precision that you’ll never doubt her for a moment. Not even when, in “All Hands,” 13 teenage girls get pregnant in an homage to the Founding Fathers—then steal a moment between classes to “[lift] off the ground” like “floating balloons...full of grace.” Hunt also has a knack for writing about the particular sadness and anxiety of middle-aged women in suburban and rural America, whether precipitated by motherhood, marriage, or loneliness. As one narrator remarks in “Love Story,” “while no one wants to hear about middle-aged female sexual desire, I don’t care anymore what no one thinks.” Thankfully, Hunt is more than good enough to make you care.

Grab your comforter and a flashlight for this tour de force collection from one of our most inventive storytellers.

Pub Date: July 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-28213-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.

A PERMANENT MEMBER OF THE FAMILY

One of America’s great novelists (Lost Memory of Skin, 2011, etc.) also writes excellent stories, as his sixth collection reminds readers.

Don’t expect atmospheric mood poems or avant-garde stylistic games in these dozen tales. Banks is a traditionalist, interested in narrative and character development; his simple, flexible prose doesn’t call attention to itself as it serves those aims. The intricate, not necessarily permanent bonds of family are a central concern. The bleak, stoic “Former Marine” depicts an aging father driven to extremes because he’s too proud to admit to his adult sons that he can no longer take care of himself. In the heartbreaking title story, the death of a beloved dog signals the final rupture in a family already rent by divorce. Fraught marriages in all their variety are unsparingly scrutinized in “Christmas Party,” Big Dog” and “The Outer Banks." But as the collection moves along, interactions with strangers begin to occupy center stage. The protagonist of “The Invisible Parrot” transcends the anxieties of his hard-pressed life through an impromptu act of generosity to a junkie. A man waiting in an airport bar is the uneasy recipient of confidences about “Searching for Veronica” from a woman whose truthfulness and motives he begins to suspect, until he flees since “the only safe response is to quarantine yourself.” Lurking menace that erupts into violence features in many Banks novels, and here, it provides jarring climaxes to two otherwise solid stories, “Blue” and “The Green Door.” Yet Banks quietly conveys compassion for even the darkest of his characters. Many of them (like their author) are older, at a point in life where options narrow and the future is uncomfortably close at hand—which is why widowed Isabel’s fearless shucking of her confining past is so exhilarating in “SnowBirds,” albeit counterbalanced by her friend Jane’s bleak acceptance of her own limited prospects.

Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-185765-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more